The C-word

Secularism, as exemplified by a zealous de-Christing of Christmas, is bad political strategy for liberals, writes Mark Steyn.

In Plano, Texas, in the heart of God-fearin’ Bush country, parents were instructed not to bring red and green plates and napkins for the school’s ”winter” parties, as red and green are colors with strong Christmas connotations and thus culturally oppressive.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph long ago got the heave-ho from the schoolhouse, but the great secular trinity of Santa, Rudolph and Frosty aren’t faring much better. ”Frosty The Snowman” and ”Jingle Bells” are offensive to those of a non-Frosty or non-jingly persuasion: They’re code for traditional notions of Christmas. The basic rule of thumb is: Anything you enjoy singing will probably get you sued.

. . . But every time some sensitive flower pulls off a legal victory over the school board, who really wins? For the answer to that, look no further than last month’s election results. Forty years of ACLU efforts to eliminate God from the public square have led to a resurgent, evangelical and politicized Christianity in America. By ”politicized,” I don’t mean that anyone who feels his kid should be allowed to sing ”Silent Night” if he wants to is perforce a Republican, but only that year in, year out, it becomes harder for such folks to support a secular Democratic Party closely allied with the anti-Christmas militants. American liberals need to rethink their priorities: What’s more important? Winning a victory over the New Jersey kindergarten teacher’s holiday concert, or winning back Congress and the White House?

In Britain and Europe, symbols of religious faith remain in public spaces while actual Christian faith has collapsed, Steyn points out.

About Joanne


  1. If Christianity is about illuminated plastic Nativities, then it should be taken not just out of the public spaces, but taken out back and put out of its misery altogether.

    I’ll grant that the Plano, Texas example is outrageous, but I’ll respond with a Dover, Pennsylvania. Religion in schools is a touchy subject: some want more, some less, and some none. Will we as a country ever satisfy everyone? Hell, no. Will we satisfy most of the people? Probably already do. Most normal people (read: those who don’t read Steyn columns or blogs) don’t care about the Happy Holidays/Merry Christmas flap anymore than they did about the Pepsi Challenge.

    If we gave a damn about singing Christmas Carols and decking the halls with boughs of holly, I think leaving that job up to the schools is the last thing we as a nation should be doing. I know it’s hard for some to figure out, but religion isn’t a function of the government. Any nation that puts the schools in charge of its holidays and the government in charge of its religion deserves to be tremendously disappointed in the results.

  2. SiliconValleySteve says:

    But the schools are already in the religion business. The religion is secular humanism and it is very hostile to any notion of traditional, Christian, religious values. This election showed that parents voted more republican than any other group. We are the consumers and we don’t want the product. More and more of us are opting out of the government school system for private religious schools and homeschooling.

    Those who have no children and wish to impose their will on the future through the secular values of the government schools voted democrat.

    Why not just allow us equal liberty by providing us with a voucher to pick a school of our choice? I’m quite sure that the concerned parents who will pick private religious schools will produce hard-working, tax-paying citizens who will make enough money to pay for the welfare state and economy that the childless will require to pay for their upkeep in old age. Why must they choose for us?

  3. Secular humanism isn’t a religion. And, even if it was, it’s not the school’s religion. The school religion, when properly practiced, is called “none of the above” and neither offends nor attacks any other religion.

    As for traditional Christian religious values, they are best practiced in the traditional Christian religious venue: the churches and the homes of the faithful. Or the streets, public squares, or television and radio stations of devotees. Or wherever else the faithful want to preach, pray, and ponder.

    But if you want the schools to be receptive to Christianity, be ready for them to be receptive to all religions. And non-religions.

    As for this election being a victory for Christianity and religion, I had no idea that was what I was voting for or against. I thought I was voting for a President and Congress, not a religious viewpoint. Did Episcopalianism or did Catholicism win? What’s the Congress’ stance on Original Sin? Can I sell my daughter into slavery now, or does the Constitution still forbid it? Will the Supreme Court rule on the nature of the Trinity? Are we now a theocracy? As an atheist (with four children), I say “Thank God, no!”

  4. SiliconValleySteve says:


    If you don’t see a secular humanist bias in the education your children are getting in government schools, it could be because you are so in tune with the hegemony being promoted.

    As a Christian, I don’t have that luxury. If I were to subject my children to government schools, I would have quite a job with reversing the creed that is taught.

    I am perfectly happy to pay for the education of your children in the atheist view of the world that you choose for them. Why do you deny me the same right?

  5. “As for traditional Christian religious values, they are best practiced in the traditional Christian religious venue.” Really? Thank God the Good Samaritan didn’t practice his faith in the confines of a religious community. Christians who practice their faith outside of their own religious community make society better. The positive contributions of Christianity to Western Civilization, let alone to this country, would take volumes to delineate. And I submit that 100+ years ago when McGuffy’s Reader, with its Biblical allusions and Christian moral teachings, was standard fare for most grammar school kids, the people that made up society were much kinder, humbler, more generous, more temperant, and more virtuous all around than people are today.

    “Secular humanism isn’t a religion.” You can call it whatever you want, but it’s a dogma that has replaced religion in public schools and in higher education, and that has largely filled the void that Christianity once occupied in the public square. The diversity movement, multiculturalism, moral relativism, and post-modernism are adjuncts of this quasi-religion, and our country has become much poorer spiritually and ethically because of them.

  6. Jon, supra, just doesn’t get it. Actually it’s a very simple syllogism: parents want their children brought up in the family’s cultural traditions, including religion. Public schools are held by present constitutional law to be organs of the state and thus debarred from doing so. Therefore, parents must pull their children from the system.

    “Let them go,” you say, “but ha, ha, I’ve got their education dollars, and I’m not giving any of the money back, so there.” Well, the problem with that point of view is that, in a real democracy, people can vote to change things they don’t like. They just did. As Ronald Reagan used to say, “It’s not your money.”

    If you are a public schoolteacher, and you don’t think that the system will change, you are sort of like a denizen of the ancien regime who imagines that his system of power and privilege will go on forever. Don’t look out the window to see what all that hammering and sawing is about: you don’t want to see what they’re building in the courtyard.

  7. I never said or even suggested that the Good Samaritans and others should only practice in their homes, I said they shouldn’t get the government to do their jobs. The government shouldn’t take a side in religious issues. Religion is okay (in fact, I think it’s absolutely very, very good for the country) on the sidewalks but not in the DMV office, the Post Office, and–especially–the government-run schools.

    I’m not a teacher, I’m a parent. I have one child in the government-run schools and three at home (one of whom is of school age: maybe I’m a teacher after all). I support school vouchers, but I don’t support school prayer at the public schools. I’ve had my daughter at private schools, public schools, and a charter. I’ve been unhappy with elements of each, and will continue to be for as long as my daughter is in school, and probably for as long as I live.

    If a religious education is desired, go to a religious school or, if that’s not an option, teach the religion at home after school and on weekends. When I thought it was important that my daughter learn something she wasn’t getting at school, I taught her. It’s easiest to do so while home-schooling, but that’s not an ideal way for all children (my daughter, for instance).

    I welcome more choices in education: home, charters, half-time charters (a new movement to supplement home school education), religious private schools, private schools, public and private military schools, trade schools, art schools, and whatever else it takes to turn children into the kinds of adults we need in this country. I do think the education system (public and private) tends to have its head up its ass when it comes to doing its job, and heartily welcome the additional options I now have. I’m grateful for the ultra-fundamentalists who, along with some hippies who refuse to even get birth certificates for their children, are the types of people who made home-schooling a reality for the majority of people in this country. Now that “the rest of us” can gain from their struggles, we are a better country.

    As for this election being a referendum on religion in schools: bullshit.